Congressional candidate David Harmer says kill public school

A wrecked school bus half in and half out of a ditch.

This is how California GOP congressional candidate David Harmer views public schools. (Photo Credit: CC BY/laffy4k/Flickr)

As midterm elections approach, the campaign platform for tea party GOP California congressional candidate David Harmer will probably downplay Harmer’s views on public schools, writes Nick Baumann for Mother Jones. Reportedly, Harmer wants to eliminate public schools because he views them as “socialism in education.” Once the slate is clean, America can go back to “the way things worked through the first century of American nationhood,” Harmer believes.

Eliminating public schools not an issue in the race

California GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman doesn’t agree with David Harmer’s education reform views. Whitman has gone on record that she will work to strengthen the state’s public schools. Yet Harmer’s views on public schools are crystal clear, thanks to a 2000 San Francisco Chronicle op-ed entitled “Abolish the Public Schools.” In essence, Harmer advocates eliminating the Department of Education and any government funding of schools, then going back to allowing parents, trade guilds, associations, fraternities, churches and charities to fund education.

But there’s a small problem here, writes Baumann. Historians like John Rury of the University of Kansas say that reminiscing over America’s grand “education for all” past is looking through rose-colored glasses. Rury points out that not long ago, even high school was considered a luxury. Women, minorities and the disabled were typically outsiders. Students who did make it past primary education were generally taught just “very basic literacy and computational skills” a mere four or five months out of the year. In order to remain competitive with the rest of the world, America eventually adopted taxpayer-supported public schools. Rury argues that this was inevitable, as the need for more teachers and a longer school year drove up costs.

Suppressing extreme tea party views

Baumann writes that when David Harmer worked for the conservative Heritage Foundation and published a book called “School Choice: Why You Need It — How You Get It,” the GOP candidate frequently spoke of the ills of “socialism in education.” Harmer’s desire to privatize public schools, thus placing their success in the hands of the free market, might seem like something he’d want to follow through on if he gets elected to Congress, but such education reform is not mentioned on his campaign website.


Mother Jones

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